John’s baptism is tricky to preach on. On the one hand, he’s a fiery preacher who makes stark the need for transformation in a dark world. On the other hand, he sounds awfully judgmental and ‘works-based’ (especially in Lutheran contexts).
Well, if we can contextualise John’s actions and practices to his own time and place without overlaying our own fears between works and grace through faith, we can discover that perhaps Jesus’ own initiation was also the turning point of the initiation itself. Maybe there’s more here than meets the eye.
Tuesday is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday — he would have been 90 years old. I turned to his sermons for help in reflecting on this strange and harrowing concept of repentance. Too often, we moralise it. It’s about what I do wrong rather than who I can be in God. It’s about all the petty bad things rather than larger, systemic injustices that Luke is so fond of addressing.
What if repentance is something more?
All quotations from Martin Luther King are taken from his sermon to Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, Chicago Illinois, 1967.